How To Lose Your Mind

Losing your mind is usually associated with diminishing mental health — that’s not what I’m encouraging here. Instead, consider the perspective that all pain comes from the mind.

As Michael Singer, author of The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself says,

“When a problem is disturbing you, don’t ask, “What should I do about it?” Ask, “What part of me is being disturbed by this?”…”Eventually you will see that the real cause of the problem is not life itself. It’s the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes the problems.”

This goes along with the buddhist idea that,

“Attachment is the root of suffering.”

There are certain activities that naturally cause us to feel like we’ve ‘lost our minds’ — or in other words, cause us to detach from the labels, worldviews and interpretations that we’ve developed over our lives, and be deeply centered in the present moment. Mosh pits, deep work, movie cliffhangers — these experiences teach us that losing our minds is possible. But too often we fail to see these experiences as a glimpse of what our minds are capable of and use them only as distractions to cover up temporarily what is bothering us.

It’s impossible to be distracted to the point of avoiding all pain — but not for lack of trying. A study has shown that people would rather shock themselves than be alone with their thoughts:

“For 15 minutes, the team left participants alone in a lab room in which they could push a button and shock themselves if they wanted to. The results were startling: Even though all participants had previously stated that they would pay money to avoid being shocked with electricity, 67% of men and 25% of women chose to inflict it on themselves rather than just sit there quietly and think”

What if instead of constantly seeking more distraction as a way of avoiding suffering, there was a way to train your mind to not let thoughts cause suffering in the first place? This is the promise made by Vipassana meditation, where concentration on breathing is used as a tool to sharpen awareness of the illusion that thoughts and feelings are real. Meditation gradually cultivates mindfulness and awareness of the inner workings of reality itself — to lose your mind in everyday life.